* S&P 500 down about 2 pct for the week so far
* Wal-Mart falls after results, Target edges higher
* Jobless claims spike, investors see impact of storm
* Indexes: Dow falls 0.5 pct, S&P falls 0.5 pct, Nasdaq
falls 0.6 pct
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, Nov 15 U.S. stocks fell in choppy
trading on Thursday, with the S&P 500 on track to fall for a
third day, as Wal-Mart Stores Inc reported disappointing results
and investors feared the "fiscal cliff" will harm the economy.
Stocks have struggled recently to hold onto even slight
gains, such as on Wednesday when they opened higher but ended
down more than 1 percent.
Investors worry the economy could slip into recession if no
deal is reached in Washington to avoid the fiscal cliff - budget
cuts and tax hikes that begin to take effect in the new year.
The S&P 500 is off about 2 percent for the week so far.
President Barack Obama, who plans to meet with Republican
and Democratic leaders of Congress on Friday, pressed his
bargaining position at a news conference Wednesday that the
wealthy must pay more in taxes as part of a deal.
"In terms of the market, all eyes now are on the
congressional meeting tomorrow with the White House," said Peter
Boockvar, managing director at Miller Tabak & Co in New York.
"With a very oversold market and bearishness at the
individual investor level at the highest since August 2011, a
bounce is due if there is any positive commentary in that
meeting," he added.
Despite the recent decline, the S&P 500 is up 7.5 percent so
far this year, though at its 2012 peak the benchmark index was
up about 17 percent.
Wal-Mart fell 4 percent to $68.50 after reporting
third-quarter revenue that missed expectations. The company said
economic conditions pressured customers' spending. Target Corp
rose 1.5 percent to $62.32 after it reported a profit
that beat expectations.
Weekly jobless benefits claims spiked last week, reflecting
the impact of superstorm Sandy. The storm also hurt economic
activity in the mid-Atlantic states. The Philadelphia Federal
Reserve Bank's business activity index for last month fell more
than expected, sending stocks lower.
The index is one of the early indicators of a national
manufacturing report later from the Institute for Supply
"We're going to somehow have to carve out the business
activity in the Northeast of late in order to get an
accurate pulse of the state of the rest of the national
economy," Boockvar said.
The government also said the cost of living rose by 0.1
percent last month. The report showed the rate of inflation
holding steady, which was seen giving the Federal Reserve room
to continue its stimulative monetary policy.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 59.53
points, or 0.47 percent, at 12,511.42. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index was down 6.27 points, or 0.46 percent, at 1,349.22.
The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 16.53 points, or
0.58 percent, at 2,830.28.
Both the Dow and Nasdaq ended at their lowest levels since
late June on Wednesday, while the S&P 500 is down about 5
percent since election night. Wednesday marked the benchmark
index's lowest close since July 25.
NetApp Inc surged 10.7 percent to $30.04 a day
after reporting adjusted second-quarter earnings that beat
expectations and forecasting a strong current quarter.
Overseas, Israel launched a major offensive against
Palestinian militants in Gaza, killing the military commander of
Hamas in an air strike and threatening an invasion of the
enclave. Egypt recalled its ambassador from Israel in response.
Energy shares rose amid tensions in the Middle East, as any
disruption in crude supplies could spark a jump in oil prices.
Brent crude rose 1.1 percent while oilfield services
company Halliburton Co rose 1.4 percent to $30.35.